Society, it has been said, is a contract, a contract between those who are alive, those who have gone before us and those yet to be born. This is especially true of Australia, where our heritage has been the surety of our considerable success. Founded a penal colony under the rule of law by liberal reformers with noble beliefs in redemption, and that slavery should never taint these shores, within a surprisingly short time, our forefathers lived in self governing thriving communities, constituting one of the world’s oldest democracies. Then they did what no others had done — without war, deaths or violence, and humbly relying on the blessings of the Almighty, they united to form one great nation.

Australians were soon to be among the world’s leaders in education; in women’s, workers’ and the aged’s rights; and in sports, medicine and the sciences, winning proportionately more Nobel Prizes than any others. They irrigated the parched land, they built thriving cities and towns, and they farmed the interior. Their contributions to the freedom of others were vast — more died in the First War than those of the armed forces of the great United States. The generation who emerged from the hard won victory of the Second War strongly endorsed equality and eschewed indulgence in favour of responsibility, respect and personal abstemiousness. They soon removed the shame of racial discrimination. In brief, we have inherited a decent society. It is our sacred duty to make ourselves worthy of this inheritance by adopting and applying the values and principles enunciated by the pioneers, the founders and those who fought and died for this country.

Write a speech for Australia 2007 — something like the Gettysburg address, that defines the Australian moment and projects our nation into a new unified destiny — in 272 words. If 272 words was good enough for Abraham Lincoln … Send your small gem of timeless rhetoric to [email protected]. The eventual winner (we don’t want to set a deadline just yet) will be performed by former NSW premier and orator supreme Bob Carr on Radio National’s Late Night Live. 

Peter Fray

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